Betting Favorites Ruining NFL Survivor Pools

Let’s go back to Week 8 of the NFL season. The New Orleans Saints are 5-2 and coming off a 62-7 demolishing of the Colts, setting a franchise record for points and victory margin. They travel to St. Louis to face the 0-6 Rams, whose starting quarterback is injured. New Orleans is a 13.5-point favorite, the biggest of the week and tied for the second biggest of the season. Of course, the Saints lose.

Welcome to the 2011 NFL season, where teams have been doing a remarkably impressive job of ruining Survivor pools.

For those unfamiliar, here’s how Survivor (also known as “knockout”) works: Each week you choose a team and if they win, you advance. You can’t repeat a team. The winner of the pool is whichever participant lasts the longest. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Hey, that sounds easy,” then you’ve never played Survivor.

But it’s not supposed to be this hard. My friend Kyle runs a Survivor pool which had 112 participants this year. Despite the fact that anyone eliminated before Week 8 had the option for one re-entry, only six people remain. Kyle has been running the pool for six seasons and said he’s never seen anything like this.

My friend Lee and I share an entry in the pool and each week we discuss potential teams before settling on one that we think has a great chance to win and gives us desirable options going forward. These discussions and eventual selections are not all that meaningful when huge favorites are losing every other week.

Our first loss came in Week 5 when we, like 80 percent of the pool, unwisely put our faith in the Giants against Seattle. The 9.5-point spread made the Giants the biggest favorite of the week—the “safe” pick. There is no such thing this season. The biggest favorite has lost three times; six teams favored by at least 9.5 points have lost.

One game that qualifies on both counts is this past week’s Eagles-Cardinals match-up. Philadelphia was a 13.5-point favorite in the Battle of the Birds, prompting 22 of the remaining 33 participants to choose them. They lost. My friend Griffin, a die-hard Giants fan, was one of them. Survivor has been so frustrating this year that it is making people hate their rivals even when they lose.

There have only been two things you can count on this season: the Green Bay Packers winning and the Indianapolis Colts losing. Due to the rule against re-using teams, the Packers’ success can only help for one week. Going against the winless Colts would be a flawless strategy, but they have a bye this week. To anyone still left out there: Good luck.

2 thoughts on “Betting Favorites Ruining NFL Survivor Pools”

  1. I'm playing ESPN's Eliminator Challenge in the Fantasy Focus Football Podcast group. The Giants' loss to Seattle and their win over the Patriots are my two incorrect picks so far. The group has 16,396 people and only 77 with 100% correct picks (including the Bronco's win last night). My guess is that nobody in this group finishes the season undefeated because as you say there is not much you can count on. However, the randomness of the NFL is a big part of why it is so popular.

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